Posts Tagged ‘new orleans’
The New Orleans Times-Picayune has an excellent series on how Louisiana became the world’s leading jailer. The eight-part series begins with these sobering stats:
Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s. …
One in 86 adult Louisianians is doing time, nearly double the national average. Among black men from New Orleans, one in 14 is behind bars; one in seven is either in prison, on parole or on probation. Crime rates in Louisiana are relatively high, but that does not begin to explain the state’s No. 1 ranking, year after year, in the percentage of residents it locks up.
In Louisiana, a two-time car burglar can get 24 years without parole. A trio of drug convictions can be enough to land you at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for the rest of your life.
One problem with the last 30 years in the United States is that we built all of these prisons and now they stand as an argument for their own preservation. Against hypothetical visions of a future with both fewer prisons and safer, more vibrant communities, hulking brick-and-metal warehouses for the “bad people” seem, to many, like a safer bet because, hey, we’ve already built them. I suppose I would just say: We have to get over that.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in the spirit of his inaugural message that “an incarceration program is not an employment program,” will seek to cut 3,000 prison beds in his 2011 budget. That’d be the largest single-year reduction in over 10 years, but considering New York would still have 61,000 prison beds left, it’s not like Cuomo’s proposing some kind of radical flinging-open of the prison doors. Plus New York’s not exactly flush in cash these days, so maybe this sounds like a good idea! But of course, the problem is that the politics of closing prisons are dicey (second in diceyness perhaps only to the politics of closing military bases), so instead of closed prisons it looks like what New Yorkers may actually get in 2011 is just another report by yet another blue-ribbon panel:
… instead of designating specific prisons for closing in his budget — a move that would harden opposition to his budget, perhaps implacably, among lawmakers whose districts are home to the facilities — Mr. Cuomo will appoint a task force of lawmakers and prison officials to come up with a consolidation plan after the budget is passed, people briefed on the plan said.
Donn Rowe, the president of the state correction officers’ union, expressed dismay over the proposal, saying, “The closure of any additional facilities could pose a clear and present danger to the public.”
Meanwhile, the New Orleans City Council is scheduled to vote this Thursday on how big of a new jail to build. Read the rest of this entry »
Attention Journalists, Sociologists, Grad Students, etc.: Spotlight Needed on the Nation’s Local Jails
Although this blog is titled Prison Law Blog, I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t put jail into the title somewhere. I’ve blogged before about how Rikers Island has become America’s largest mental health facility (more here), and about the myriad problems that plague the nation’s overcrowded, underfunded local jails. In the new Daedalus issue on mass incarceration that I mentioned last week, Loic Wacquant argues that students of the American criminal justice system would do well to turn their focus on jails:
As a result of intensified policing coupled with a rising propensity to confine miscreants, American jails have become gargantuan operations processing a dozen million bodies each year nationwide, as well as huge drains on the budgets of counties and pivotal institutions in the lives of the (sub)proletariat of the big cities. Indeed, because they treat vastly more people than do prisons, under conditions that are more chaotic due to high turnover, endemic overcrowding, population heterogeneity, and the administrative shift to bare-bones managerialism (the two top priorities of jail wardens are to minimize violent incidents and to hold down staff overtime), jails create more social disruption and family turmoil at the bottom of the urban order than do prisons. Yet they have remained largely under the radar of researchers and policy analysts alike.
Wacquant’s comments ring especially true with respect to places like New Orleans that have relied heavily on detention as both a crime control strategy for serious crimes (though often without charges ever being filed) and a revenue generation strategy for minor offenses, as described in this recent Crime Report interview: Read the rest of this entry »